Wellington - The British and Irish Lions squandered a 16-point lead as
the Wellington Hurricanes roared back to snatch a 31-31 draw and dent the Test
prospects of several touring players on Tuesday.
The Lions leaked four second-half tries and then missed a
drop-goal attempt after the siren as they threw away a commanding position
against the Super Rugby champions.
It wasn't the result the Lions wanted in their final tour
match as coach Warren Gatland looks for reinforcements for this week's second
Test after Saturday's defeat to the All Blacks.
There were some bright spots, with Tommy Seymour scoring two
tries on the right wing and George North one on the left, although Gatland's
Test focus will be on the forwards.
Lock Courtney Lawes excelled, along with hard-running number
eight CJ Stander.
Iain Henderson also played well but marred his Test hopes
when he was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, allowing the Hurricanes back
into the game in a thrilling finale.
"It's very frustrating to have given up a lead
twice," said Lions captain Rory Best, adding: "It'll be the last game
(of the tour) for a lot of us.
"But we'll make sure that we knuckle down, roll up the
sleeves and whoever's lucky enough to play in the last two games we'll make
they're well prepared and ready to win the game on Saturday."
In what may be a taste of things to come in the second Test,
it was an often bad-tempered encounter featuring plenty of off-the-ball niggle.
The match in front of a 39 000 sell-out crowd in the New
Zealand capital started brightly, with both sides throwing the ball around.
A Dan Biggar penalty put the Lions ahead but the Hurricanes
looked threatening on the wing as Julian Savea went on the charge.
Just as they were building pressure and looked poised to
score, Lions scrumhalf Greg Laidlaw intercepted an Otere Black pass and pinned
his ears back.
He was run down just over the halfway line but offloaded to
fellow Scot Seymour, who dotted down between the posts, with Biggar adding the
conversion and another penalty.
Flanker Callum Gibbins hit back with a pick-and-go try as
the Hurricanes outmuscled the Lions defence, but the visitors kept the
scoreboard ticking over with another Biggar penalty.
North then scored their second try when the Hurricanes
failed to claim a Biggar high ball and Henderson flicked it into the path of
the giant Welsh wing.
The Hurricanes pressured the Lions with a lineout drive as
half-time approached, but this time the defence held to send them into the breakup
A perfectly timed Savea pass set up fellow All Black Ngani
Laumape for a try seconds after the restart and a Jordie Barrett penalty
narrowed the gap to 23-17.
The Lions patiently worked the ball forward after Wellington
scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi was sin binned for a high tackle, then sent
it out wide for Seymour to score his second.
But the Hurricanes replied with tries to Wes Goosen and Vaea
Fifita after Henderson's yellow card, locking up the scores at 31-all and
setting up a barnstorming final 10 minutes.
The Hurricanes worked the ball through 23 phases but could
not find a way through, and then Biggar's attempted drop goal fell short to end
the match in a draw.
Hurricanes 31 (7)
Tries: Callum Gibbins, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Vaea Fifita
Conversions: Jordie Barrett (4)
Penalty: Jordie Barrett
Lions 31 (23)
Tries: Tommy Seymour (2), George North
Conversions: Dab Biggar (2)
Penalties: Biggar (4)
15 Jack Nowell (Exeter/ENG), 14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow/SCO), 13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath/ENG), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/IRL), 11 George North (Northampton/WAL); 10 Dan Biggar (Ospreys/WAL), 9 Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester/SCO); 8 CJ Stander (Munster/IRL), 7 Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/WAL), 6 James Haskell (Wasps/ENG); 5 Courtney Lawes (Northampton/ENG), 4 Iain Henderson (Ulster/IRL); 3 Dan Cole (Leicester/ENG), 2 Rory Best (captain, Ulster/IRL), 1 Joe Marler (Harlequins/ENG)
Substitutes: Kristian Dacey (Cardiff/WAL), Allan Dell (Edinburgh/SCO), Tomas Francis (Exeter/WAL) Cory Hill (Newport/WAL), George Kruis (Saracens/ENG), Gareth Davies (Scarlets/WAL), Finn Russell (Glasgow/SCO), Jared Payne (Ulster/IRL)
15 Jordie Barrett; 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea; 10 Otere Black, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi; 8 Brad Shields (captain), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Vaea Fifita; 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott; 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May
Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, 22 Wes Goosen, 23 Cory Jane